Okay, here we are, time to get serious! This time I’m looking at the SERIOUS general threats to circle, the factions main challenges if you will. This article is going to be fairly general in nature but as my college painting instructor used to say; “Work from the General to the Specific!”
1. EXTREME SHOOTING
Circle has never liked being shot but we always had an answer with Krueger 2, Bradigus and Druids. Well, watchers and druids changed considerably and with the advent of MK3, guns shoot farther, more accurately and are even more deadly. To top that off there is way more stealth mitigation.
The big problem for Circle is that we don’t bring Extreme Ranged Lists and don’t have the option of counter Extreme Ranged Lists with guns of our own. Sure, we have some amazing guns, but they tend to be medium or short ranged and not terribly powerful. We can run ranged lists but they will have difficulty of their own against Extreme Ranged Lists, the same issues more balanced lists and melee oriented lists will have.
I’ve heard, and said the refrain; “Stealth or High Defence are No Defence”, and I was convinced that only LOS was remotely competitive against Extreme Range. This is quite simply not true and that type of thinking leads us into pigeon holing ourselves into certain casters and builds that, as a faction, make us predictable and easily teched against.
So, what is the answer to Extreme Range? What can we do in the face of such precision long ranged pain?
Well, the answer isn’t one thing, it’s an entire battery of potential solutions. There are 6 things that counter or mitigate shooting casualties for Circle. and the trick is to not rely on one of them, but as many as possible, and at the same time.
A. LOS blocking: Terrain, the stuff we bring and the stuff already on the table is immensely important when playing into Extreme Range lists. It will be very important for you to quickly seize control of this terrain and utilize it so that you can get at the enemy on your terms before they have a chance to inflict crippling casualties. Use restricted lines of sight to protect important pieces, it may not be possible to stop all shooting to your important pieces but it should be possible to restrict it enough that the concentration of that fire will not destroy it.
The good news is SR 2017 is coming and the terrain rules (which have been largely adopted by the community already), emphasize more terrain and more impactfull terrain, meaning you will have better luck using it against Extreme Range.
B. Stealth: Stealth doesn’t seem to be worth anything against guns these days. Too much stuff ignores it, removes it or just sprays or blast damages your stuff dead before it can get anywhere. There is some truth to this, there are things that do all that, but frequently, your opponent doesn’t have access to all these options. The more stealth you bring, and circle can bring a lot of stealth and prowl, the more of an issue it can be for your opponent.
C. High Defence: For defence to be of any real value against Extreme Range it has to be exceptionally high, like 19+, to have any real deterrent. Now, that’s pretty stupid high and the only way you get something that high without additional caster support is cover + elevation which isn’t going to happen naturally with terrain you don’t make anyway. The good news is it IS possible to get DEF up to that level with caster buffs AND more importantly the volume of models you can get to that level can start to make it problematic for your opponent.
D. Spell Effects: Circle has many spell effects from their excellent stable of warlocks that can be utilized to lessen the impact of shooting. From Solid Ground to Gale Winds to Wind Blast to Windstorm, the options are extreme and varied, BUT its important to note that you cannot rely exclusively on these spells to protect your force and help you deliver enough of it to make a game of it. You MUST combine and stack these with the other factors listed here to achieve success.
E. High Armour: Not all Extreme Shooting has the power to crack high armour AND be accurate. It is important to identify the breaking point for the bulk of your opponents attacks where the resultant average damage tappers off to the point of it being less effective. For Boosted POW12s ARM 21 tends to start to severely impact its effectiveness. Hunter Shots at POW 6 Armour Pierce are more negatively affected by a decent base armour with modifiers stacked on top of it and tends to become less effective when you have base ARM 17/18 with a +4 modifier, (Dice off 7). Don’t be deceived, you will take damage, but if you utilize other factors on this list to decrease your opponents ability to concentrate his guns on individual pieces and remove them, then you will be more likely to deliver those pieces.
F. Healing: Healing is not much of a counter to ranged attacks but when combined with the other factors listed here it can begin to mitigate the damage inflicted. Healing can come in many forms in Circle; Druid Wilder, Blood Weavers, Shifting Stones and you caster spending fury are all ways that you can attempt to mitigate damage inflicted to your warbeasts, even if it means it will take more shots to kill it next turn.
So there are the general factors you have at your disposal to help reduce the impact of your opponents shooting. The more of these factors you can use at the same time, the more effective your defenses will be and the less likely that you will sustain crippling casualties.
2. JACK SPAM
Heavy jack spam is proving to be a serious issue for Hordes and Circle in particular. Some people believe that hordes warbeasts as a whole are not balanced against their warjacks cousins. I don’t think this is the case but I’m not going to get into that discussion as the focus of these articles is to examine the game and our options AS THEY ARE, not, AS YOU THINK THEY SHOULD BE.
Now it is true warjacks, on a whole, are cheaper than warbeasts, and that a fully loaded or buffed warjack is capable of killing a beast nearly twice it’s value in points in one activation. Inversely most warbeasts struggle to do the same to even an unbuffed warjack.
So how can we deal with this lopsided attritional advantage that warjacks seem to have, and how do we deal with a situation when we are faced with the potential of trying to destroy or incapacitate 9 or 10 jacks with the 3 or 4 heavy warbeasts we typically bring?
It’s not easy, I’m not going to lie, but we are capable of making a game of it. When facing Jack Spam it is important that you adopt the mentality of the man who has to eat a whale; that is to say you don’t do it all at once, just one bite at a time.
Think of the Jack Spam as a herd and you are the predator. Lions and Tigers don’t go running into the thick of the herd when they hunt, no, they pick off stragglers and isolated members of the herd. As a Circle player that is what you have to do, break up the herd and pick off isolated jacks.
There are 5 factors that are valuable and helpful when facing Jack Spam. Like dealing with Extreme Range these factors are best used in conjunction with one another for maximum effectiveness.
1. Control: control comes in many forms so this is going to require sub categories all of its own:
A. Terrain: use of existing terrain is going to be very important. Yes some, or most of the jack spam lists are fast and have pathfinder, but not all of them. If your opponents jack spam list has mobility then that means that the LOS blocking and obstruction style terrain is going to be your focus and will need to be an integral part of your plan.
Likewise any terrain you create is going to be more impactful if it is anchored off of important terrain pieces. Through the use of terrain you will attempt to break up and isolate portions of his warjacks so that they can be dealt with in detail
B. Misdirection and delay: part of enticing your opponent to split his force or offer you isolated warjacks is to bait your trap. There are numerous ways to do this, only limited by your imagination. One example is to use a buffed piece of bait, say a gnarlhorn with forced evolution or a feat like Kaya 3s that add to its defence, or roots of the earth to add to its armour.
Now if this piece is positioned in a prime scoring opportunity, your opponent will use resources to remove it and it will most likely take resources that far out weigh its value or it will take a longer period of time to do it. While your opponent does this, he will separate his force and give you a localized superiority that you can attempt to capitalize on. I did this once with a gnarlhorn under kaya 3s feat and it took 2 marauders and a juggernaught 2 turns to eliminate. During that time he threw 2 marauders outside of karchevs control area further complicating my opponents issues.
This allowed me to create a localized area of force superiority and delay scoring for my opponent with minimal allocation of resources.
You can also use fast cavalry or infantry/warbeasts with reposition to harass the flanks. This is best accomplished with models with ranged abilities so that they can maximize their distance from their targets and remain active for as long as possible. Delay can also come in the form of knockdown, stationary or slamming. Yes many of the Khador warcasters running jack spam have Jump start to easily mitigate this type of delaying tactic, so you will need to be aware of that when attempting this.
C. Scenario delay: Jack Spam will try and muscle you out of scenario just by sheer weight. It is important to have elements in your lists to delay scenario so that you can maximize the time available to you to slowly remove isolated warjacks or have your ranged elements wear down the enemy.
The best options to have for this type of duty are models that are incorporeal and if possible stealth. With the release of the Forge Seer, Khador has an easier time dealing with the incorporeal delay pieces but it will still require that particular warjack to dedicate itself to removing those pieces and as a result they will not be shooting your army as much.
A unit of fast stealth models is also a good tool to have to delay scenario as much as possible. A unit of blood weavers is 8 points of models you can slowly run into enemy zones to slow down any scenario advantage they may be gaining.
D. Spells and abilities: there are a number of spells that our warlocks can utilize to control and slow valuable warjacks and keep them out of the fight as long as possible. Stranglehold, spirit fang, pillar of salt, etc are all of potential value when it comes to delaying enemy warjacks.
2. Pulling one out of the herd: there are a few ways to bring a warjack out of the safety of the jack herd. The obvious ones are Loki, TK and gallows, in terms of abilities and spells you can trigger. The other ways you can isolate a jack are pretty much outlined in the misdirection section of Control but to quickly summarize; use anything you can, terrain, bait, abilities, spells or feats, to pick apart the jack brick and isolate individual jacks.
3. Infantry: What?!?!? You say, Infantry? But Circle infantry can’t kill warjacks! Well there is some truth to that, circle infantry have some difficulty killing jacks but they do an excellent job of damaging them and then breaking up and isolating individual jacks from the herd, or allowing warbeasts to take down a wounded jack and prevent effective retaliation on that warbeast. Medium based infantry is usually best for this type of duty as they can stop tramples and are more difficult to remove but they are more expensive. Small based infantry are just as capable of performing this task but more care needs to be taken in regards to placing the warbeast(s) that are likely going to be finishing the wounded jacks.
4. Guns: Most Jack Spam lists do not bring any sizable concentration of guns. That means that you, as the hunter, can bring some guns to soften the stragglers so that your warbeasts can go in an finish the job. If you like you can even bring guns with the express purpose of being able to destroy individual jacks, and that can work, but I would advise you to adopt and exploit some of the other factors listed even when attempting this tactic. Circle shooting is relatively short ranged and there is constant danger that the herd might rush you and overwhelm you guns.
5. High armour and/or defense: There are some ways to stack defense and/or armour to make it very difficult for warjacks to effectively deal with your warbeasts. There are balder 2 builds with Wrong Eye and Snap Jaw that utilize high defense and high armour that can be quite frustrating for Jack Spam to deal with. That said, this on it’s own is a poor solution to the Jack Spam problem, but when used in conjunction with some of the other factors on this list, can be amazing.
So those are the factors and considerations you have when facing Jack Spam. Just like the Extreme Ranged problem, the more factors you can exploit, the more difficult it will become for the Jack Spam player to steam roll you out of scenario or roll over you with sheer weight of jacks.
3. LEGION OF EVERBLIGHT/ EXTREME MELEE THREAT
Legion poses a unique problem for circle in that they almost universally have eyeless sight to see through stealth and clouds and the faction can project warbeasts much further than we can. Legion also projects Extreme Ranged threat and assassination in the form of Llyth. Llyth 3 poses a very serious threat to circle warbeasts and requires great care when planning how to tackle her.
The factors that compensate for Legion Extreme Ranged threats are identical to the factors listed above for mitigating Extreme Range in general so refer to those. As for Extreme Melee threat, these are some of the factors that will help you mitigate that:
1. Guns: ranged attacks help neutralize threats like Abby2’s Scytheans before they happen. If you can concentrate on individual targets and utilize some of the other factors on this list you may be able to scalpel out pieces before they get to you.
2. Kill the Seraph: If possible kill the Seraph as soon as possible because Slip Stream is an amazing threat extender. Ranged attacks really help with this.
3. Terrain: It’s very difficult to slow Legion warbeasts down due to a lot of innate pathfinder BUT you can use LOS blocking terrain to protect pieces, bait and counter type strategies or use guns to shoot and draw in charges so that you can counter. We also have access to some out of activation place effects that can help you navigate around the terrain to get a charge or attack in before your opponent can strike. Legion beasts are, in general, expensive like circle beasts so at least you can more effectively trade. Of course, the neraph is an exception to this rule and they are doubly difficult to counter with innate sprint.
4. High Armour: If you can get your armour up to high levels (21+), it will make it more difficult for the legion player to remove pieces. Of course, Legion has access to wraithbane in the form of the Naga so if that is one of your strategies you need to make elimination of the naga a priority.
5. Know the threat ranges: Do your research and confirm with your opponent what the actual threat ranges are for his various warbeasts so that you don’t accidentally blunder into it. It will seem daunting at first, considering how far they threat, but if you utilize some of the other factors on this list it will lessen the dangers.
6. Control: Anything you can do to reduce the warbeasts SPD, turn them around or make them forfeit movement or action will help lessen the impact of their extreme threat range. Abilities and effects that prevent charges, like the wild argus’s animus are great but you have to keep in mind that most buffed legion beasts threat as far walking as our warbeasts do unbuffed charging. By all means utilize it where possible. but be aware.
7. Infantry: Infantry against legion is a bit of a two edged sword. Abby can easily proc Alpha Hunter off of infantry and Llyth can gun them down like crazy and many of their warbeasts have ranged attacks on top of good melee abilities. Still, lists that are designed around Extreme Melee Threat love to see an elite circle list with 4 heavies across from it and very little to get in the way or pose a threat after they have alpha’d 2 or 3 of your heavies off the table. Infantry can be used to lead or counter with and are decent at jamming up legion heavies. Once again, don’t rely exclusively on this factor but look to other ones on this list to bolster your defenses.
So those are the factors for dealing with Extreme Melee threats, I want to get into way more detail, particularly with casters like Fyanna and Abby 2 but I’ll do that in a later article.
Those are the 3 Main challenges facing Circle right now and the general factors to consider when trying to compensate for them. A lot of this article may seem very common sense but it is important to cover all the basics before we delve into the specifics.
My next article I will go into more specific details on the tools we have as a faction to combat Extreme Ranged opponents and how to plan for and list build against them.
Until next time, as we Circle the drain, remember: